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Archive for the ‘Typography’ Category

Macintosh system font on O'Hare sign

As a graphic designer, you’d think I’d be more aware of the bazillions of typography examples that I see every day. Unfortunately, often the copywriter holds the trump card and I end up noticing glaring grammar and punctuation mistakes instead.

When I run across something that makes me notice a certain group of type, it’s usually an “aha” kind of moment, a mixture of “wow, that’s so cool” and “why didn’t I notice that?” Helvetica, the movie was one of those moments, as was an article I read about the typeface used on highway signs. Now I’m going to start keeping my eyes open for the kinds of type used in movies, because apparently a lot (or way too little) thought goes into what is displayed.

On Mark Simonson’s Notebook blog, there is a series of entries filed under “Son of Typecasting” where he points out the odd choices some moviemakers make in choosing the typefaces for their movies. We’re not talking about the titles here… this is the “background” type: posters on walls, signs on doors or buildings, close-ups of equipment dials. In a lot of cases, the typeface chosen is way out of context historically. In other cases, it’s just bizarre, like several cases where the old Macintosh system font is used on signage or a tombstone. In a few cases, it has been carefully chosen for a specific mood or theme, like the many versions of Futura used in The Royal Tenenbaums.

These entries spring from an article from December 2001 called Typecasting: The Use (and Misuse) of Period Typography in Movies. I’m sure there are lots more examples of this kind of mistake, and most of the time they go by unnoticed, or at the very least evoke a kind of uncomfortable uneasy feeling that something feels wrong or contrived about a prop in a movie. But I, for one, am going to pay closer attention from now on.

Found on Veer

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Olicana from Veer

Veer sent me an e-newsletter yesterday with a type update. Normally these go straight in the delete folder; I have a bazillion fonts and there are few that are interesting enough or practical enough to spend a couple hundred dollars per typeface to purchase.

However, this particular new typeface caught my eye. It’s called Olicana, and it’s designed to convincingly imitate handwriting in ink and steel nib. With over 100 pairs of duplicate character combinations, a few three-character ligatures, alternates, endings, scratch-throughs and blotches, the result is an elegant, intriguing, highly customizable and surprisingly readable typeface that does a very good job at imitating handwriting. The splats are an especially fun concept.

I’m still not sure if I’m going to shell out $160 for it, but I’m keeping it in my bookmarks just in case. I’m always looking for nice handwriting typefaces to use to convincingly “hand address” wedding invitations (sorry calligraphers, my clients have budgets).

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Clearface highway sign

I read a lengthy article this morning from the New York Times about Clearface, the new typeface designed specifically for highway signs. This article is worth a read, especially for those of you who have never wondered what font they use to tell you the speed limit. Apparently there has been quite a bit of research done on the readability of these signs, and the conclusion is that the font is too fat and badly designed for optimum readability. The result? Don Meeker’s and James Montalbano’s carefully researched and crafted font designed to be readable from up to 1,000 feet, even at night in the glare of headlights. Some of the best design is the kind you don’t notice, that works so effortlessly to communicate its goal that it slips between your concious and unconcious without you noticing. Will you notice the change? Or will you just notice that you miss your exit a lot less often?

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